Dec. 6: The most famous inventor you've never heard of died on this day in 2006


Stanley Mason invented everything pictured here (except babies). The photos are of modern versions, though, so …

Stanley Mason may be the most famous inventor you’ve never heard of.

You use his inventions almost every day: the squeezable ketchup bottle, granola bars, the square plastic milk jug, microwavable cookware, floss dispensers, the disposable diaper. But you probably didn’t know that one man was behind them all.

Mason, who died on this day in 2006 at the age of 84, is responsible for dozens of inventions over his lifetime, many of which are still used today.

Foaming toothpaste, warming shaving cream, the Playtex plastic-underwire bra, stringless peel-open Band-Aid packaging, Tupperware designs, Pepperidge Farm’s signature packaging, hair dye, baby wipes—you can find at least one of Mason’s inventions in almost any home around the country.

His first invention, besides a fishing lure he sold to friends at the tender age of 7, was the disposable diaper, contoured to fit the shape of a baby’s bottom.

"My wife asked me to put the diaper on the baby," he told the Seattle Times. "I held up the cloth diaper, and it was square. I looked at the baby and it was round. I knew there was an engineering problem."

So he set out to invent the disposable, contoured diaper. (He was, by the way, fired for this idea, according to an article he wrote that was quoted in the New York Sun's Mason obituary. Luckily he reveled in his many firings, after deciding that corporate America stifles creativity.)

He worked in product development and packaging for several companies before establishing his own, Simco, Inc. in 1973. Based out of a two-story barn in Weston, Conn., the company had eight permanent employees and about 100 rotating consultants, making it more of a think tank than anything else, according to the New York Sun.

Among his earliest successes with the company was his heat-resistant, microwavable cookware, called Masonware, which was instantly popular and made him a small fortune.

Through Simco, he went on to collaborate with more than 40 Fortune 500 companies to make more than 100 products, claiming 55 patents among them.

They weren’t all winners though—his single-serving packages of sardines marinated in salad dressing never found much of an audience, believe it or not. And he couldn’t convince the U.S. government to get on board with his idea of making fuel out of fruits.

But to everyone who is thankful for not having to endlessly smack the bottom of a ketchup bottle to get the condiment out, and to everyone who relies on granola bars for morning sustenance, Mason was one very successful guy.

Ilyce Glink is an award-winning, nationally syndicated real estate columnist, blogger and radio talk show host, and managing editor of the Equifax Finance Blog. Follow her on Twitter @Glink.


View Comments